Cono Sur claims title of largest global Pinot Noir producer

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Cono Sur is claiming to be the world’s biggest producer of Pinot Noir in the wake of diminished harvests for New Zealand and Burgundy.


Speaking exclusively to Harpers, the Chilean winery laid claim to the title of largest global Pinot Noir producer, following widespread reports of below-scale harvests in many of the major wine-producing regions.


In New Zealand, harvest reports suggest an 18% reduction in crop following one of the worst summers in decades, while Burgundy faces its smallest harvest since the mid-1950s after the vineyards of the Côte d’Or suffered a mixture of frost, hail, mildew and poor flowering.


Cono Sur’s winemaking manager Matías Ríos said: “In Europe they’ve had a complex harvest and in New Zealand a very low harvest, therefore Chile has a big advantage.


“I’ve been a winemaker for Cono Sur since 2000 and I don’t remember a bad year – 2002 was complex , but in general it’s very consistent year on year.”


The inevitable price rises and low commercial stock levels in places such as New Zealand and Burgundy could stand in Cono Sur’s favour, according to Ríos .


The latest figures show Cono Sur owns 292ha of Pinot Noir under vine, compared with its biggest rival, New Zealand’s Brancott Estate, which owns 58ha, Ríos said.


Cono Sur is also the number-one Pinot Noir producer in the UK off-trade, he added, with recent sales figures for the year to June 30, 2012, showing the winery sold 34,306 9-litre cases. Its closest rival, Brancott Estate, sold 33,463 9-litre cases.


In 2012, Cono Sur exported 51,611 9-litre cases of Pinot Noir to the UK, which is its top export market, followed by the US, Canada, Japan and Finland.


Cono Sur has the “best expression of Pinot Noir from Chile”, Ríos believes, with “a softer balance and more character”. He described the Chilean style of Pinot Noir as “fresh and elegant, with ripe, complex tannins and delicate notes of black cherries”.


Cono Sur vinifies Pinot Noir according to the traditional Burgundy method. It has eight different versions of Pinot Noir in its portfolio including its entry-level Bicicleta range, Reservas, Organics, sparkling, an ultra-premium label called 20 Barrels and icon wine Ocio.


In 1999, the producer launched its Pinot Noir project to champion its flagship variety. It is also dedicated to experimenting and innovating with new clones, winemaking technqiues and regions.

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